Monday in the Octave of Easter, April 22
What Type of Fear Would We Display If God Were to Appear to Us: Immense Awe and Joy Due to His Glorious Divinity, or Trepidation Due to Guilt and Personal Betrayal As a Result of Our Sinfulness?
“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed…” – a verse taken from today’s Gospel.
The timeline for today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew is still Sunday morning. The angel of the Lord had just appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, probably the one who is the wife of Clopas, both who had stood at the foot of the Cross with our Blessed Mother and Saint John.
The angel just told them that Jesus had risen from the dead and, as they leave, our Lord appears to them and is telling them not to be afraid, for Scripture tells us that they were “fearful yet overjoyed.” Remember, they just saw Him die a horrible and painful death on the Cross three days earlier.
If the women at the tomb were suffering from apprehension when seeing the Risen Christ for the first time, then it was a normal human reaction. But it was the Love and Peace of the Risen Lord which put them at ease – which gave them a sense of elation and inner peace.
Here was Jesus, their Beloved, risen, just as He had promised! Did they fully understand all that was happening? – probably not, for the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to His disciples. And yet, their happiness and joyful hope sent them to report all that they had experienced to the Apostles.
Fear and apprehension – emotions which each of us realize at some point in our lives. It usually accompanies feelings of surprise, uncertainty, misunderstanding, ignorance or impending danger.
Webster describes fear as an “unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” or an “anxious concern.” But fear is oftentimes used in Sacred Scripture referring to profound reverence and awe, especially when referring to God.
From the Old Testament, the Book of Sirach tells us, “The beginning of wisdom is to fear the LORD…” The Book of Proverbs tells us that “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” And the Psalms tell us “Blessed the man who fears the LORD…” and “Those who fear the LORD trust in the LORD…”
And I believe that this is the emotion which was really taking place in the hearts of the women at the tomb of Jesus.
Fearful and joyful – those were their emotions, for they stayed with Christ right to the very end when He gave up His Spirit to His Father. They did not reject Him; they did not run away. Their fearfulness was not the same fear that the Apostles were feeling due to guilt and an inner sense of betrayal of their Lord.
And it was not until the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, infusing them with enlightenment and understanding, that Peter and the others were able to shake the fear from their hearts and souls, enabling them to openly and fearlessly proclaim the truth about Christ.
Peter, in today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, with great courage and inspiration, given to him by the Spirit of God at Pentecost which had just occurred, attests to the fact that this Jesus, who was crucified and was raised up from the dead, is the prophesied Messiah talked about by David in the Old Testament Psalms.
And we hear this prophesy in today’s Responsorial Psalm, in which God’s Anointed One will not suffer corruption and will be raised, and that He will sit at God’s “right hand forever.”
The question I suppose each of us should ask ourselves is, “How do I fear the Lord?” If Christ were to appear to us, as He did to Mary Magdalene in today’s Reading, what type of fear would you and I display or be feeling in our hearts – a fear due to immense awe and joy regarding His glorious Divinity, or trepidation due to guilt and personal betrayal due to our sinfulness?
I would assume that we would all respond to feeling both kinds of fear. Even though our Lord has asked us to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect”, the reality is that we oftentimes fall far short of this goal, due to our fallen and sinful human nature.
And unless one lives in a cloistered environment and spends all of his or her time in prayer, it is not easy to remain untouched by sin, for the world in which we live is a very secular, oftentimes a very unholy place.
As a result, it is only through the Love of Christ and His Sorrowful Passion, in which God offers to each of us His infinite Mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which restores our fallen nature to one of reunion and healing with our Heavenly Father.
As we now enter into these fifty days of Easter, a week of Sundays until Pentecost following our Lord’s Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death and Resurrection – let us call to mind all that He experienced and endured for each and every one of us.
Unfortunately, when we look upon the Cross, we only see a very sanitized image of the suffering Christ. It is very difficult to truly appreciate the extent of His Love, lived out for us even through the barbarity of Roman execution.
As we gaze upon a Crucifix, it is difficult for us to fully realize the tremendous brutality and debasement which Roman scourging and crucifixion had on the human person.
But for those of us who remember seeing the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” years ago, we can remember the images that were seared into our consciousness, the images which were impressed upon our minds of the barbarous yet mostly factual accuracy of the cruelty and suffering which our Lord endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers – all out of Infinite Love for you and me.
Our Savior willingly endured His Passion; He freely embraced His Cross, and all the agony which accompanied it, so that you and I might be reconciled to our Eternal Father, so that you and I might have life, and have it to the fullest!
In our journey of faith, as you and I continue to foster our intimate and loving relationship with our God who loves each of us beyond all manner of human description or understanding, let us strive to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
For in such a relationship, our fear should not be one driven by guilt due to our betrayal of His Love. Rather, our fear should be the result of the love and awe which we hold for our God who has created us, redeemed us, and continuously sanctifies us each and every day of our lives on this side of Heaven.
Then, all that remains for you and me is true joyfulness – a joy which fills our hearts with a longing to hear our Lord call out our name, a longing to embrace His feet, just as the women at the open tomb did.
And Jesus will place our hearts at ease when we hear Him say to each of us, “Do not be afraid” – for only He can fill us with the peace of mind and soul for which we so desperately yearn in our continuing pilgrimage through life. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed…And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them…‘Do not be afraid…’” (Matthew 28:8a, 9a, 10a)
- “The beginning of wisdom is to fear the LORD; she is created with the faithful in the womb.” (Sirach 1:12)
- “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7a)
- “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning one from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27)
- “Blessed the man who fears the LORD…” (Psalm 112:1b)
- “Those who fear the LORD trust in the LORD, who is their help and shield.” (Psalm 115:11)
- “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
- “But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age toward those who fear him. His salvation is for the children’s children of those who keep his covenant, and remember to carry out his precepts.” (Psalm 103:17-18)
- “He put fear of him into their hearts, to show them the grandeur of his works, that they might describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name.” (Sirach 17:8-10)
- “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
- “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)
Prayer for the Day
“Glory and praise to You, Risen Savior,
for You bring light to our darkness, joy to our sorrow,
and the fullness of Your Love to our reluctant hearts.
“Once and for all, You have conquered sin and evil.
In the glory of Your Resurrection,
we have been set free from all that keeps us from following You.
“On the wondrous glory of the Easter Morn,
and all the days to follow,
fill our hearts with Your Light and Grace,
that we might joyfully echo the words of Your Holy Angels:
“‘He is not here in the tomb: He is risen!’
Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.”An Easter Prayer